Brexit: Theresa May’s Florence Speech

Prime Minister Theresa May has used a speech in Florence to set out the UK’s position on how to move Brexit talks forward. With further negotiations planned next week, what did her speech tell us about the sort of Brexit deal we might end up with? Reality Check correspondent Chris Morris has been scanning the speech. The BBC’s report is extracted below.


Future of the EU

What’s the significance? It’s worth noting that a lot of Brexit supporters in the UK jumped on Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the European Union speech last week – in which he set out an ambitious agenda of greater integration – as an example of why they wanted to leave in the first place.

The PM picked up on this – we’re getting out of your way while you move in a different direction that we’ve never felt entirely comfortable with.

That’s good for both of us she implied. It slightly ignores the fact that many EU leaders wouldn’t agree with Mr Juncker’s proposals – but it’s a point that will go down well on the Tory backbenches.  Continue reading

The Rohingya of Pakistan: Burmi Colony in Karachi

This is an excellent write up from Dawn about the Rohingya community in Karachi. As is well known, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh because the Myanmar military is burning Muslim villages and driving people from their land. The UN has described Myanmar’s behaviour as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.  feature of 17 September 2017 in Dawn is most informative about the Rohingya in Pakistan. The west’s great heroine, Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to address the situation at all and there have been calls to strip her of her Nobel peace prize. The picture above is from one of the Rohingya villages recently burned by Buddhist monks and Myanmar military forces. 

Pakistani passports hold no value, at least not to those in power.

“Look at the date of issuance, look at it!” exclaims Mohammad.

“July 31, 1954.”

“And they are still asking us to prove our nationality.”

All of us tut-tut in unison. We are seated outside the Arakan Muslim Primary and Secondary School, about nine of us huddled in a circle as life around us moves ahead as normal. This is Burmi Colony, home to about 55,000 Rohingya Muslims in Karachi. There are other colonies in the area that are also housing the Rohingya but this is arguably the largest.

The Burmi Colony is located on the edge of the Korangi Industrial Area, perhaps the mega-city’s largest industrial zone. Apart from products, Korangi and the adjoining Landhi area produce the largest number of low-wage workers settled in small settlements off the main road running across the two zones. Burmi Colony, like the others, is organised along ethnic lines.

The ongoing strife in Myanmar’s Rakhine State targeting the minority Muslim population has shone a light on Karachi’s own substantial Rohingya population. Who are they and what are they all about? Eos finds out…

There are many in the neighbourhood who claim to have arrived in (West) Pakistan well before the formation of Bangladesh. Most Rohingya often identify themselves to officials as Bengalis because this provides them a chance to claim Pakistan citizenship. It is only the recent events in Myanmar which have made them own up to their identity publicly. An elderly grocer who could barely speak Urdu narrates that he arrived in 1965 as a boy. His son is now father to three. Continue reading

Raymond Davis’s New Book: An Old Device For Defamation

The Pakistani establishment does not act as clients to USA or other international powers as portrayed in Davis’s book. Unlike many other countries in the region, for example Afghanistan, the Pakistani establishment is smart enough to look after its own interests.

There has been a history of dealing with spies in the international relations. During war times, arrested spies were exchanged with mutual consent. There has been also a practice of killing these spies brutally. Mata Hari, a Dutch spy who worked for German cause during the First World War, was executed by firing squad. The recent case of Kulbushan Yadev and Raymond Davis are two peas of the same pod. They belong to different countries but their objective was same. Both were arrested by Pakistani government and convicted in the courts and given death sentences. Raymond Davis was released dramatically the details of which have been available in his recently published book The Contractor: How I landed in a Pakistani prison and ignited a diplomatic crisis. The story of 49 days from January 27, 2011 to March 16, 2011 has been narrated by him in a novel-type style. He has described how politicians and the Army manipulated things for his safe exit from Pakistan.

The role of General Pasha, the then ISI chief has been mentioned repeatedly that how he and his ISI had pressurized the family of murdered Faizan Haider and how the lawyer Asad Manzoor Butt was kept away from the last day proceedings. The story has two dimensions: one to defame Pakistani establishment as clients to USA which has been served to some extent because there is nothing new for people to buy. Secondly, it implies that how arrested spies increase the bargaining powers of weaker states against comparatively big powers. Continue reading

Observer Comment on US Strategy in Afghanistan

If we do not have a reasonably competent, friendly government in Kabul, nothing the west achieves will last. Ignoring the Afghan nation’s needs is not an option

This week’s comment in the Observer calls for a more inclusive role for Pakistan than the one recently articulated by Washington. Comment as follows: Donald Trump’s view on the conflict in Afghanistan was highly critical in 2011 when he tweeted that the US was “wasting lives and money” there. He later termed Barack Obama’s strategy a “complete waste”, saying it was “time to come home”. Trump stood on his head last week, ordering the deployment of additional American troops and committing the US to an open-ended war that he vowed to “fight to win”. So which Trump is right – the pre-election sceptic or today’s ardent warrior? The answer is neither.

When Obama took office in 2009, he raised US troop levels to around 100,000, part of a Nato force of about 150,000. His plan was to turn around a war that had already dragged on too long, then hand over to better-trained and equipped Afghan army and police forces. The handover duly took place in 2014, but the conflict was not over. Since then, security has steadily deteriorated. Obama was right to try, and Trump wrong to prematurely scorn his efforts. But what the 2009 surge ultimately proved was that even the most modern armies, wielding the latest weaponry and backed by unchallenged air power, cannot wholly overcome the sort of unconventional, guerrilla campaign at which the Taliban excel. More than 2,400 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001, and more than 450 British troops. But according to US estimates, government forces now control less than 60% of the country. Continue reading

Panama Papers: The Report of the JIT

The full report of the Joint Investigation Team JIT, formed in the aftermath of the revelations contained in the Panama Papers, be found here. The report is not a judgment and commentators are divided over whether the document is sufficient to lead to the removal of prime minister Nawaz Sharif from office. NDTV reports that the JIT accused Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam of presenting fake documents on two 2006 declarations to the probe team using the “Calibri” font which was not commercially available till January 30, 2007. The JIT, which is probing allegations of money laundering against Mr Sharif and his family, said Maryam Nawaz, her brothers Hussain and Hassan Nawaz as well as her husband Captain Mohammad Safdar (retd), had signed false documents to mislead the Supreme Court.

The team that probed offshore assets of Sharif family said in its report that Maryam Nawaz claimed herself to be “trustee not the owner” of Avenfield properties in London, which linked her to Minerva Services and Samba Financial, Geo News reported. The JIT said that her claim turned out to be completely wrong and it was proven that she owned the properties managed by Minerva Services. The JIT concluded that Mr Sharif’s daughter was the real and ultimate beneficial owner of the Avenfield apartments. Continue reading

Book Review: The Exile – Osama Bin Laden after 9/11

This is a fantastic book review in the Guardian (1 July 2017) by Owen Bennett-Jones. 

The investigative reporters have produced a revelatory work about al-Qaida members in hiding in Pakistan and Iran between 2001 and 2011. At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden was in an Afghan cave, unable to get a decent TV satellite signal and forced to follow developments on the radio. The contrast between his situation and his impact was to be a theme of the next decade until, eventually, the Americans caught up with him in the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. It’s a decade that The Exile describes with a remarkable amount of impressive new detail.

Investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy start with a detailed account of Bin Laden’s movements. When the US air strikes began, he flitted through various locations in Afghanistan, all the while trying to manage the movements of his wives and children. He was on his way to a meeting with Mullah Omar in Kandahar on 7 October 2001 when a US drone came close to killing them both. From there he moved to an underground complex in the Tora Bora mountains near the Pakistan border. The US assaulted Tora Bora but, again, Bin Laden managed to slip away, and on 14 December 2001 he turned up in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Feeling too exposed there, he moved back to Afghanistan in February 2002 before reaching northern Pakistan in the summer. There he lived with one of his wives, Amal, and their nine-month-old daughter Safiyah in the remote village of Kutkey, home to the in-laws of his courier and guard, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti. Continue reading

Observer: WhatsApp warriors on the new frontline of Kashmir’s conflict

This is fascinating reporting from the Observer (9 July 2017) on the unrest in Kashmir:

It started with a phone call from a dying militant that went viral. Now angry, educated youth, inspired by social media, are demonstrating in their thousands. The young militant would be dead in a few minutes. Indian security forces had the house surrounded. As they closed in, Muzamil Amin Dar made a phone call.

“There is nothing to worry about,” he is heard calmly telling his family on a tape of the call. “Sooner or later we all have to face death, isn’t that right?” He falls silent; the recording ends in a shrill chorus of women’s screams.

The killing of the commander from the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba in October 2012 looked like any other death in the 27-year insurgency that has racked Indian-controlled Kashmir. What made it different was barely appreciated at the time. Days after Dar’s last conversation with his family, the recording of the call began to circulate online, spreading like wildfire across the Kashmir valley. Uploads to YouTube were played tens of thousands of times. Within months, copycat “last calls” from other dying militants began to surface. A trend was born.

It was one of the earliest interventions of social media in a conflict that has been transformed by technology. Unlike the shadowy militants of the 1990s, Kashmir’s new crop of anti-India fighters are WhatsApp warriors, achieving with selfies what they have struggled to do with guns. In the hands of young Kashmiris, the internet has become a weapon: images of dissent met by teargas and bullets in the street are flourishing online. Continue reading